Three arrested in Seattle on food stamp fraud charges

Your tax dollars

Here we go again, another food stamp fraud bust, but this one is different.  This time its three Asian women instead of Muslim men.  Let me say right up front, I have alerts set for food stamp fraud and have virtually never gotten an alert involving anyone with names like Smith, Jones or Baker.  I’m not saying Americans don’t do food stamp fraud, but there seems to be (in my unscientific analysis) a heck of a lot more immigrants participating in the big frauds, like this one.  It seems that large immigrant communities are also a required ingredient.  [I can hear the politically correct raging as I write this!]

From The Seattle Times:

Three people, including the owner of a grocery store, have been charged with food-stamp fraud in connection with a two-year undercover investigation that federal officials say could involve millions in transactions.

Federal prosecutors have charged Elsa Ma Kwong, 46, the owner of the Seattle Chinese Herb & Grocery in the Chinatown International District, where the investigation was focused, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Two other women, Ahn Thi Nguyen, 53, and Muoi Ly, 65, both of Seattle, were also charged with allegedly facilitating the fraud by serving as “runners,” who found people to participate in the fraud.

Be sure to read the article because this use of “runners”  is something new to me, and I have read a lot of food stamp fraud stories.

Here then was the giveaway to investigators, duh!

When Kwong most recently applied for permission to participate in the SNAP program in 2009, Kwong estimated that she sold about $90,000 in groceries a year from the market. However, a review of the store’s redemption history showed it had redeemed more than $2 million in SNAP benefits between June 2009 and June 2010.

$2 million of your tax dollars in one year!

Meanwhile, food stamp recipients are at an all time high!

Blaming the economy and unemployment, Bloomberg reported (hat tip: Drudge) yesterday that 41.8 million Americans are now on food stamps.  Surely many need the help but these large numbers of fraud busts indicate to me that lots of ‘needy’ people need cold hard cash more than food!  And they know how to get it at the corner grocer or convenience store!   I wonder if we can extend banking regulations to these mom & pop stores?

The number of Americans receiving food stamps rose to a record 41.8 million in July as the jobless rate hovered near a 27-year high, the government said.

Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies for food purchases jumped 18 percent from a year earlier and increased 1.4 percent from June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a statement on its website. Participation has set records for 20 straight months.  [When you click on ‘statement’ it takes you to a fabulous chart of how much food stamp use has gone up state by state—ed]

Search RRW for ‘food stamp fraud’ to see dozens of fraud cases similar to Seattle’s.

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